REDMOND, Wash. — The United States Postal Service's Redmond distribution center processes about 1 million pieces of mail every day.
It's a service people often take for granted.
"We rely on it more than ever during the pandemic for important documents, medicine. We need to make sure we are investing in its long-term capacity," said Congressmember Suzan DelBene (WA-01).
United States Postal Service (USPS) Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, however, is considering closing the center and consolidating it with a facility in Tukwila.
The move would impact 17 cities from North Bend to Everett encompassing nearly 1 million people in King and Snohomish counties.
DelBene represents the area that would be impacted and worries the consolidation will slow service.
"We'll have increased drive times if they're consolidated. We know traffic can be bad. If everything is in Tukwila, you're going from there to get to the Eastside and to the north, instead of Redmond," said DelBene.
The postal service lost nearly $5 billion last year.
Postal officials are planning to close 18 facilities across the country in an effort to make the agency more efficient.
But DelBene said the USPS is using data that's a decade old and doesn't take into account the region's growing population.
"For example, the population of Kirkland, which is served by this facility, has almost doubled in the last decade," said DelBene.
DelBene recently sent a letter to Postmaster General DeJoy asking him to "immediately suspend plans to move the Redmond center."
She adds the facility may not be operating at peak efficiency because of a worker shortage largely due to the post office's own practices.
"It's been hard for folks to hire at the East Distribution Center because it's under this cloud that it might be closed at some point," said DelBene. "Who wants to take a job like that?"
The Redmond center employs about 60 people.
Sources inside the facility say some workers would have to travel about 50 miles to get to their new place of work.
Its final day was supposed to be Feb. 26, but Delbene said that date has been scrapped as postal officials decide their next move.
On Tuesday, USPS provided KING 5 the following statement:
There are no firm or final plans for this sorting facility. It’s important to note that even if this were to occur, carriers and retail operation throughout the region will continue as normal and customers won’t notice any changes to their daily mail service.
Generally, the moving of equipment and/or operations does not necessarily mean the entire facility will close, as some will continue to process parcels and act as cross-dock hubs.
Since letter mail is declining, and package volumes are increasing, it makes good business sense to realign the mail processing operations from multiple facilities into one facility and provide expanded package sorting capabilities. By centralizing these operations, the Postal Service improves efficiency and service reliability for its customers.
The larger facilities are outfitted with the latest, high-tech equipment. Transporting mail directly from the larger mail processing plant to the local Post Office or hub for more direct distribution is sensible and smart. Our Delivering for America Plan fosters service excellence which will lead to a 95 percent on time reliability for mail.